real life

"How did I grow up so fast?"

Recently I had a moment of realisation that shook me to the core.  I was sitting on a crowded bus on a busy route, peering over the top of the novel I was pretending to read whilst actually perusing my fellow passengers wondering what they did, where they were going, or if they realised how loud their ipod was.

As the (already full) bus stopped to let on new passengers including a woman who was – at a conservative guess – nudging 60, my gaze landed on the pair of school girls sitting directly in front of where the woman stood. They looked up at her, then looked straight back down and continued with their conversation without moving an inch.

I was outraged, this woman clearly would have appreciated the seat more than them. She was older, had presumably paid full fare (as opposed to student fare) and, well, she’s a grown up.  I was so infuriated that I actually tsk tsked at the girls before standing up to offer my seat instead. However my stern glare and tsking did not achieve the desired response. The girls looked at me, then rolled their eyes at each other and giggled.  I blushed.

Back in my day, any uniformed student who refused to follow simple bus protocol would have been named and shamed at the next school assembly.

Hold on. “tsk tsk”…. “back in my day”… teenagers mocking me….

We’re not in Kansas any more –  I am a GROWN UP.

When I pass mothers in shopping centres they tell their children to “let the lady pass”. People on the phone call me “ma’am”.  I certainly am old enough to be a grown up. So why don’t I feel like one?

I still have childlike optimism that I will reach a magical age when I am an adult.  I can almost see the grown up version of myself. I have finally found the perfect hair cut/colour/dresser. I read the newspapers front to back every day, probably after my daily jog with the dog.  I have found the perfect work/life balance, and am blissfully free of neuroses, paranoias and conspiracy theories.

Surely I must at least be on my way to being an adult. I have a child and some mortgages. I like to go to bed early and sometimes cry at the news.  Despite the expanding number of candles on my birthday cake, however, I just don’t feel like a “grown up”.  I am only just working out what I want to “be” when I grow up.

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In fact I am not even sure what growing up means.  Is it having “grown up problems” like money worries, caring about politics or hangovers that last for days? I certainly fit these criterion but on the flip side I can’t budget when sales are on, care more about the politics of Masterchef and, well, have had hangovers that last for days.

I wonder if my parents felt the same way when I was a child. They seemed to have it all together. As quickly as I could fire random questions at them, they’d shoot back answers that I accepted to be the absolute truth. Of course it was, they were parents and they knew everything. (Although I do wonder how many of those “the Great Wall of China was put there to keep the rabbits out” tales I was told…)

I thought it would hit me when I became a parent myself. Instead, my husband and I were phoning our parents before our son even had his first nappy on. “Come see what we did, come see what we did”. It was like the ultimate version of “look, no hands!” (look, ten fingers, ten toes!!).

As I get older and have more in-depth conversations with my parents, I realise they still suffer from the self doubt and silly whims I thought I would outgrow with age. I am sure my 81 year old grandmother doesn’t feel all that grown up. She still flaps with excitement when she eats a particularly pretty pink cup cake, or if someone makes her a lychee martini. But that’s another story entirely…

Sadly I suspect feeling like a grown up might come with disappointment. A loss or a realisation that perhaps not everything is possible.  Carrying a burden and responsibility when the consequences are far greater than what ended up on facebook or wasting a year on the wrong course at uni. If that’s the case, I might just nurture the child within for as long as she’s there and listen to the youthful narrative in my head, no matter how silly it may feel.

Julie Alexander is a former lawyer, stay at home mum, documentary producer and wannabe Alpha Wife.

So when does it happen – have you had an adult epiphany when you realised you were a grown up or are you still waiting for the magic number or moment?

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